[lg policy] Calgary

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 17 15:44:42 UTC 2013

 Calgary alderman calls plain language policy the 'realm of ridiculous'
The city is erasing jargon in favour of simpler verbiage as politicians
backed a policy to make municipal communications more user friendly.

The Priorities and Finance Committee approved the Plain Language Policy
Tuesday, which will see bureaucrats use a conversational tone, speak
directly to intended audience and provide information that helps meet
Calgarians’ needs.

According to the policy, information is in plain language when it is clear,
concise, well-organized and easily understood.

The policy was drafted following a notice of motion by Ald. Druh Farrell
asking for simpler language and plain communication within the city.

While the majority of the committee approved the policy, Ald. Diane
Colley-Urquhart gave it a thumbs down saying the rule is “disparaging” to

She also said spending staff time to come up with such a policy is a waste
of city resources.

“There are so many important, complex issues for us to deal with that when
matters like this come along I think Calgarians really question what we’re
doing and why we need to waste administration’s time on writing policy on
something like this and having an audit done on plain language,” she said.

“This really has gone to the realm of ridiculous in my view.

“We just have to stop this sort of nonsense.”

Colley-Urquhart said there’s no need to dumb down documents bureaucrats
produce because a majority of them are already simple and if Calgarians
need to clarify something they can always call and ask questions.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said even politicians often ask questions on the
chamber floor on reports that weren’t clearly written.

“I don’t think that this is a matter of spending more time writing the
report, it’s just a matter of making these reports comprehensible to the
average person,” he said.

Farrell agreed with Nenshi noting it’s not simply about “dumbing down” the
city’s communications, but about being inclusive.

She said when talking to new council members, the use of technical terms
made them feel like outsiders.

“That’s what we’re trying to eliminate the insider vs. the outsider,
exclusive, alienating language,” Farrell said.

She said the policy will help “communicate better in every way when it is

About 300 employees have started training on how to communicate in plain
language following an audit, which found that city documents were written
at Grade 11 level, which was four grades above the Grade 7 level that will
reach most general audiences.

Council still needs to approve the policy before it is enforced.

renato.gandia at sunmedia.ca

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